How to spot a steal at an art fair

Luci Noel, director of the Affordable Art Fair, tells The Jackal how to pick the next Picasso

Festooning your walls with art is the big interior design trend du jour. Whether it’s photographs, landscapes or abstract canvases, it’s an intelligent way of expressing your taste and identity as a modern man. Of course, ideally you’d want to invest in an evocative Old Master or vibrant YBA masterpiece, but sadly forking out multiple zeros on art just isn’t practical for most of us. Which is where art fairs come in – they’re just the place for picking up a bargain or unearthing a young artist before they make it big. Luci Noel (below), director of the Affordable Art Fair, which puts on well-priced art sales around the world, lets us in on the secrets of scoping out a steal.

Affordable art

Buy art you love – it’s the most important thing

When it comes to art – something you’ll be showcasing on the wall of your home, after all – having a connection is key. ‘Original art is a personal and unique addition to your house,’ Noel says. ‘So look for art which gives you an opportunity to express yourself and make a statement with your living space.’ Also, trends may pass but choosing what you love will mean fewer regrets down the line. ‘At the moment ceramics, figurative art and large statement pieces are popular. However, it’s important not just to buy a piece because it’s part of a current trend but because you really admire it, too.’

Ask questions if you want to make a good investment

Of course, we all want to discover the next Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst – but we don’t all have the artistic nous of Charles Saatchi. However, as long as you ask the right questions, you could be well on your way to discovering the next big thing. ‘There are a few key questions you can ask that will give you a good idea of whether the work might be a good investment for the future,’ Noel explains. These include where the artist studied and how widely they have exhibited since graduating, whether they have been picked up by significant collectors, how well their work has sold and if they have won any prizes. ‘An artist whose work is already in demand and who is making a name for themselves with a consistent body of work is far more likely to have a long and successful career,’ says Noel.

Enlist help to ensure you’re getting a bargain

Visiting art fairs will give you great access to a wide variety of choice at different price points – the upcoming Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead has prices ranging from a modest £100 to still-not-bad-for-art £6000. According to Noel, this is because ‘different mediums can cost different amounts due to the expense and time invested by the artist – oil paintings and unique works tend to cost more than limited edition prints.’ In order to ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck, work with a specialist who can point you in the direction of young artists about to hit the big time. There’s even a dedicated space for this at the Hampstead Affordable Art Fair, called ‘Made in Arts London’, which showcases a selection of practicing students and recent graduates from London’s top art schools. ‘You’ll be investing in potential from artists just at the start of their careers,’ advises Noel.

Think carefully about where to hang it

Once you get your art home you’ll want it to look its very best, and thinking carefully about where you will hang your work is an important part of that. ‘Think about the spaces in your home, what you use them for, and how you could enhance them with artwork,’ Noel says. Considering the bigger picture is vital. ‘While pieces in galleries and art fairs are often displayed on a plain white wall, changing the colour of the wall behind to complement a piece can be really striking.’ You could also decorate the whole room around your new artwork or, alternatively, you could create a feature wall, to really draw attention to the piece.

Affordable Art Fair Hampstead, 10-13 May, tickets £10 – £25

Lower Fairground Site, Hampstead Heath, London NW3 1TH